What Are Strange Signs of Lung Cancer? 17 Unexpected Symptoms

Medically Reviewed on 6/28/2022
What Are Strange Signs of Lung Cancer? 17 Unexpected Symptoms
Sometimes lung cancer causes surprising symptoms that do not appear to be related to the lungs

Lung cancer often causes typical signs such as persistent cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, and difficulty breathing

However, sometimes lung cancer causes surprising symptoms that do not appear to be related to the lungs. Here are 17 strange signs of lung cancer to look out for.

17 unexpected symptoms of lung cancer

  1. Arm or shoulder pain: One type of lung cancer (Pancoast tumor) develops in the upper lobe of the lung. This tumor can potentially spread to the bone and cause shoulder blade pain and dull aches in the upper back or arms. It may cause numbness or pins and needles sensation in your hands as well.
  2. Weight fluctuations: Unintentional weight loss despite eating regular meals is a warning sign of any cancer. In some cases, small-cell lung cancer can cause the body to make the adrenocorticotropic hormone, which causes the body to make excess cortisol, leading to fluid retention and weight gain.
  3. Blood clots: Lung cancer increases the likelihood of developing blood clots (thromboembolism) in the legs, arms, or lungs. These may present as sudden breathlessness (lung embolism), pain in the extremities (clot in a blood vessel supplying the extremities), abdominal pain (abdominal blood vessel occlusion due to embolism), and stroke or heart attack.
  4. Bone pain: Lung cancer can spread to the axial and extremity bones, causing bone pain. Pain in the extremities or back can be excruciating and often worsens on movement or at night.
  5. Weak bones: Sometimes, lung cancer cells spread to the bone and cause weakness. Weakened bones are prone to fracture on minimal trauma, such as a minor fall.
  6. Balance problems: A tumor located near the major vein, superior vena cava (SVC), can cause blood to back up in the vein. Because the SVC carries blood from the head-arm region back to the heart, a tumor can cause dizziness, balance loss, or constant stumbling.
  7. Headaches: Headaches can be caused by a tumor near the SVC. High blood calcium levels or the backflow of the blood is thought to cause headaches in such cases.
  8. Clubbed fingers (fatter fingers): Lung cancer has been linked to clubbed fingers, which is where the ends of the fingers appear thicker. Nails may look curved, and the skin surrounding them may appear shiny.
  9. Stomach problems: Paraneoplastic syndrome is a constellation of symptoms that accompany lung cancer due to an altered immune response to cancer cells. Paraneoplastic syndrome causes hypercalcemia (raised blood calcium levels) that can cause constipation, stomachaches, or bloating.
  10. Extreme thirst and frequent urinationHigher levels of calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia) can cause digestive problems, extreme thirst, and frequent urination.
  11. Fatigue: Lung cancer can cause anemia, which results in fatigue. Additionally, cancer cells compete with normal cells for nutrition and can deplete the body of energy, causing metabolic starvation and exhaustion.
  12. Heart problems: High calcium levels and anemia can cause rapid or irregular heartbeat or arrhythmias. You may feel this as a missed beat, abnormal flutter in the chest, or chest pain.
  13. Puffiness: A lung tumor presses on the large vein that carries blood from the head and arms and can cause swelling in the face, neck, and arms due to the backflow pressure.
  14. Horner syndrome: Horner syndrome is a condition that causes drooping of the eyelid, a constricted pupil, and decreased sweating on one side of the face that may progress to facial paralysis. It is associated with advanced cases of lung cancer and occurs after cancer has spread into the nerves in the neck.
  15. Gynecomastia: In some cases, cancer can disrupt testosterone levels, causing swelling and tenderness in the male breast region.
  16. Sudden smoking cessation: Experts believe cancer cells in the lungs interfere with nicotine addiction. If you suddenly do not have the urge to smoke as much as you did before, it could be a sign of lung cancer.
  17. Anxiety and depressionPeople with lung cancer are more likely to experience mood swings, depression, and other nonspecific mental health issues that require treatment.

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Medically Reviewed on 6/28/2022
Image Source: iStock image

WebMD. Surprising Signs You Might Have Lung Cancer. https://www.webmd.com/lung-cancer/ss/slideshow-lung-cancer-surprising-signs

American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Lung Cancer. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-symptoms.html